Halloween - Tricks With Your Treats

10 October 2011

How many people in this country go trick or treating? It isn't a new thing, or at least it isn't around here. I first used to go out with my step children trick or treating on Halloween around 15 years ago. They're in their 20s now. For the last couple of years I've gone around the same route with my son, and some of our friends.

Early evening of course. After 6:30pm we take in the decorations, and blow the candles out on the carved pumpkins. It isn't so pleasant having large groups of teens knocking on your door. But I digress.

Normally I go for the budget option. Big bags of whatever is going at the pound shop. I did go overboard one year on big bags of lollipops. I had so many left over, I put them in a bag in the cupboard. When I pulled them out the following year, they'd sort of melted into one big mass! Rather sticky.

Lots of magazines and websites at this time of year seem to be full of tips on making your own treats. And I've seen this put forward as a budget option on the frugal parenting sites I subscribe to - most of these are US based though.

Frankly, I can't see how you can get more budget than the Pound shop compared to making your own, but maybe I'm missing something. Or maybe we just get a lot more kids trick or treating around here!

So I put the question to our PlayPennies collective parenting mind. What did they think?

Have a trick prepared

Joe has two children, the eldest girl is now 12, and his son is 8. "Make sure they have a trick prepared. The first time we went trick or treating, lots of people asked to see the trick, especially the older folks". Inspired by this, Joe and his kids spent the following year practicing.

"My son was 4 at this time, so we got him a mini bunch of flowers he could pull out of the sleeve of his costume. My daughter was exceptionally proud of the pirouette she'd just perfected at ballet, so she did a version of that."  They did this for everyone anyway, as a thank you for giving them treats.

"Other years they've performed songs, or done magic tricks. It has been a wonderful way to meet and get to know the neighbours, and the older folks in particular seem to really appreciate it. One couple told me that we're the only family they open the door to on the 31st of October!".

To trick or treat, or not to?

Not everyone likes to go out trick or treating. Some people feel that it is too 'American', while others don't feel secure knocking on strange people's doors after dark.

Rachel, mum of one and expecting twins explained that "we only went trick or treating once. My eldest daughter was only three so maybe too young. She didn't really get the idea, so the first few houses she just walked right into the home. After a while we felt it rather odd and uncomfortable going around asking for sweets from people we didn't know."

Instead, Rachel goes to a children's party held each year at a local community hall. "Parents all bring a 'treat' - I usually make cupcakes with orange or green icing. And the children all get to dress up and dance around to music."

Elise, on the other hand, just loves going trick or treating. "We live in London, so maybe it should be a scary experience. But we mostly just go to houses in our street, and we know what to avoid. And it is simply just a marvellous way of talking to neighbours we don't otherwise get to meet. I work full time, so am hardly ever around really. The kids have a great time, and even though we don't go far are exhausted by the time we get home."

She and a few friends take their children around, so there's a group of them. And they start off at one of their houses, filling the kids up with something fun like hot dogs (but nothing sugary) before hand.

To buy or make your own?

So, would you consider making your own treats to hand out? And, would you let your children take home made treats?

Deanna, who grew up in a large city in the US, answers both questions with an emphatic no. "Growing up, my brother bit into a candy apple someone made  and it was actually masquerading as a pin cushion - the pins stuck to the roof of his mouth as he bit into it. NO NEVER to other people's treats."

However, when it comes to a more private celebration where you have more control over who is attending, Deanna happily puts her culinary skills to work. "We had a street party one year and lots of my son's classmates were there. I made Harry Potter shaped cookies and toffee apples."

Yum toffee apples! I don't ever see them around much but I remember my mum making them when I was a kid and they were so gorgeous.

Location seems to make a big difference here. All the parents, myself included, who lived in cities, or large urban areas, wouldn't even consider home made treats. While those who lived in villages or out in the country didn't think twice about it.

Nancy moved from the city to a small village. "We used to go trick or treating along the local high street shops actually, far less likelihood of being attacked by someone's dog (or kids)! But now we trick or treat in the village and I don't worry."

Shona's experience seems to be rather similar. "I don't usually have time to make home-made ones, but I always think home-made is better than shop-bought. I do live in a tiny village though, and that makes a difference."

A rather cool idea

I'll leave you with this. It is a recipe for skeleton biscuits from Kirstie Allsopp. I don't usually throw in celebrity endorsements! But I thought these looked like a lot of fun, and might have a go at making some myself.

Makes approx. 30 biscuits

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes



  • 150g (5½oz) butter
  • 150g (5½oz) brown sugar
  • 175g (6oz) Carnation Condensed Milk
  • 1 egg
  • 150g (5½oz) plain flour
  • 115g (4oz) self raising flour
  • 30g (1oz) cocoa powder


  • 115g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 85g (3oz) butter
  • 1½tbsp cocoa powder

You will also need

  • Biscuit cutters or card and scissors to make your own skeleton trace
  • Ready made white icing (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C for fan ovens), Gas Mark 4. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and condensed milk together until creamy. Add the egg (don’t worry if it looks like its curdling), beat well and then add the flours and cocoa powder. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut shapes out – we made our own skeleton shape but you can make whatever shapes you like (see below tip!).

4. Transfer the biscuit shapes to the trays and bake for about 10 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Beat the filling ingredients and use to sandwich the biscuits together. Ice the tops of the biscuits, if you like, with white icing.

Tip – for your skeleton

These biscuits are great in all shapes and sizes – we used a skull shape, an oval for the body and different size bone shaped cutters for the legs and arms. Make sure that you make enough biscuits to make sandwiches for this you will need at least:

  • 2 x skulls
  • 2 x oval bodies
  • 4 x long bones for legs
  • 8 x arm bones
  • 8 hands and feet

The condensed milk makes them extra crunchy... store them in an airtight container and they’ll keep happily for about a week.

TOPICS:   Halloween

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